of the organic cabbage which from
the huge holes in its tough outer leaves
had brought it up so lively – perhaps
reared in some protected warmth, mimicking
the months when ‘ small cabbage whites’
are supposed to live – July to September.
Or had it flown in or been shipped in
from some warmer clime?
Christmas Day – was that the kitchen ceiling light
about to go? No, it was a butterfly,
frantically circling round and round
the low-energy bulb, not hot enough
to make an Icarus of its daring; always
clockwise round the bulb, I thought;
palest green to grey to white; frenzied; delicate..
At night, the light switched off, it rested somewhere;
then at evening, resumed its mad dance,
ceaseless lover, love unconsummated…
paid no attention to its cabbage home
there in the vegetable rack; only the light, the light…
Butterflies do not hear; it did not heed
my cries increasing in despair –
nothing like a butterfly net to hand;
I tried to bring it lower with a gentle spray
so that I could catch it; too wild its Maenad dance,
too high, too frenzied..
Two, three days passed; so much strength,
determination, endurance, in such a tiny thing;
no longer garden’s scourge; now a holy thing,
in which I saw myself; even wished to love;
we became of equal size, in the eyes of God…
as were we not always, from Creation’s birth?
The fourth morning, I caught it in a cut-glass tumbler
against the window pane – the open window
had not tempted it – myself now talking to its unhearing,
as I did my father on his way to death…
it settled in the glass, still moist inside
with orange juice; did you know,
butterflies taste with their feet…
they so quick to land and then take off…
such discrimination in those tiny feet,
that tiny brain, those tiny,
heroic muscles, devoted to its life and love…
It flew across the cold and winter garden
at such speed, I chose to see it joy or gratitude..
and then, was quiet for a time.
Tiny thing,
holy thing,
as near to God
as angel’s wing.

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